Summer is best when it includes plenty of downtime. Here are 8 tips for planning your summer with kids to help your family make the most of the longer days.
to me, those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.
~ Henry James
Summer holds a special place in our hearts. Reading a book under the trees on a warm day, playing in the surf and building sand castles, or lying on a blanket under the stars… our memories can be simple or they can be momentous.
The one thing most of these memories have in common is time.
No hurried schedule, no early bedtime for school the next day. When a child’s world is simplified, they have the time and space to feel more calm and contentment.
Tips for Planning Your Summer with Kids
When you streamline your summer with kids, you can make it mostly about free time, enjoying nature, and simplicity.
Some families run smoothly only with a schedule and firm boundaries. Others run just fine by taking every hour as it comes. No matter where you fall in between, here are some ways you can make the most of this summer.
1. Be okay with boredom
“Boredom is not a problem to be solved. It is an itch to scratch. Boredom is the dawn of ideas. Boredom is curiosity knocking gently at your mind, asking to play,” explains Bunmi Laditan.
A fascinating German project called, “Der Spielzeugfreie Kindergarten” (toy-free kindergarten) removed all toys from their classrooms for three months. The children were free to choose their own activities and their days were deliberately left unstructured to minimize rushing around.
On the first day, the children appeared confused and bored as they peered apprehensively around their big empty classroom. By the second day, they were playing with chairs and blankets, making forts with blankets and weighing them down with shoes. In the following days, they began to excitedly run and chat around the room. By the end of the third month, they engaged in wildly imaginative play. They also showed improved concentration and communication skills.
So, this one’s up to you. Let them see what comes from their boredom. Or maybe keep a little stash of craft supplies, books, bubbles, board games, or a rotation of seldom-seen toys for when their boredom impedes on your ability to get stuff done.
2. Follow a (flexible) schedule & set clear expectations
Even though your time isn’t as structured as during the school year, many young children thrive with routine.
Break up your time into defined chunks so everyone knows what to expect. Keep mealtimes and bedtime consistent, but having big blocks of unscheduled activities is what brings the imagination to life!
Setting expectations can go a long way toward ensuring peaceful summer break days. When kids know what to expect, they are more prepared to deal with their day.
Get everyone on the same page about your summer plans. Talk it through and then reinforce it with a wall calendar or posted list in your family command center. This also helps build their excitement all summer long when it comes to trips and events.
3. Create a summer bucket list
This can help inform the overall schedule as you’re planning your summer. As a family, write down a list of activities (camping out in the yard, bowling, pillow forts, making ice pops) to do over the summer, then consult your list when boredom strikes.
Ideally, these are inexpensive things you can do locally. But it’s also fun to give each family member a small budget for one item on their bucket list.
4. Keep a summer “go bag” handy
Keep a summer survival kit in your car with sunscreen, safe insect repellent, picnic blanket, umbrella, ball or frisbee, basket for library books, and extra reusable water bottles… so you’ll be ready for whatever comes your way.
Or if you’re heading to the beach, here’s a great guide to beach going with little ones.
5. Make a screen time plan
Setting screen time boundaries up front will make life much easier than trying to reign it in after bad habits have started.
Create a realistic, doable plan for how your summer days will include screen time. Make sure everyone understands it. Then stick with it. It can be tempting to give in to begging, but all that does is reinforce whining or negotiating the rules. When in doubt, remind yourself of tip #1 about being okay with boredom.
If you need a little inspiration, here’s how to set effective screen time limits and 50 fun screen-free activities for kids.
6. Set snack boundaries
The school schedule doesn’t allow for constant snacking, so why do they seem unendingly ravenous when they’re home all day? It could be that they’re burning extra calories with outside play. It could be that they’re bored. It could be that they’re not filling up on protein or healthy fats, and their bodies just keep craving more carbs.
Without being too restrictive, you can set boundaries to help curb the snacking:
- Try a healthy fat or protein first (avocado, nuts or seeds, cheese, nitrate-free lunch meat, etc.)
- Eat from a plate or bowl – not a box or bag
- Include a fruit or veggie with a snack
- No snacking within the hour before dinner.
Here are some fun summer snacks & charcuterie board ideas you can customize for your family.
7. Keep it realistic
Just like with your daily routine, screen time plan, and setting expectations – you have to keep reality in mind. If your kids are homebodies, it won’t be fun for anyone if you try to pack in too many activities each day.
There will be sibling arguments and whining about being bored. Life is never perfect, and you’ll be less disappointed or frustrated if you keep that in mind. And while we’re talking about perfection, here’s a good refresher on embracing imperfect parenting.
8. Add local activities to your to-do list
A big vacation is fantastic, and maybe you have that in your summer plans. But your family can also enjoy nature, history, and most likely an amazing library in your own community. Pack your kids’ favorite healthy lunch or snacks and visit different, unexplored playgrounds and walking trails around your city. Or try some of these fun staycation ideas to help recreate family favorite destinations right at home.
The kids will get exercise, their daily dose of Vitamin N, and you’ll get out of the house (for free!)
How do you go about planning your summer? Share your ideas in the comments to help other parents!
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